The signing of Rhys Webb on a short-term deal was always going to raise eyebrows and expectations. Although the Welshman impressed in his first outing for Bath Rugby he had to watch on as his side were ground out by an excellent Bristol side.
Blistering Bears Start
Rhys Webb began brightly enough with some quick-thinking for a tap and go on halfway. This created a Priestland break but the Welsh international was brought back by the referee for missing the mark.
Things quickly took a turn for the worse as Chris Vui finished off a well-worked move to open the scoring for Bristol after six minutes. Although Bath hit back with a penalty from the boot of Priestland things were about to get worse for the home side.
After a wonderful set of phases that saw Bristol advance to the 22 Sheedy slide through a hole as the defence rushed up. Seemingly with little support around Sheedy opted for the crossfield kick. Pinpoint with his accuracy the stab found Leiua on the wing with the simplest of run-ins ahead of him.
Superb stuff from the Bears ?
Callum Sheedy right on the spot with his crossfield kick to Alapati Leiua! ? pic.twitter.com/0Al7CM7gxu
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 1, 2020
Bath Hit Back But Cannot Cross the Line
This though seemed to spark Bath into life. They hit back with 10 minutes of pressure in the Bristol 22 culminating in the yellow card of Joyce. However, they could not come up with the score, conceding a penalty inches short of the line and allowing Bristol to clear.
Bath kept coming and managed to notch up another penalty through the boot of Priestland just before the break. The sides went into the sheds at 12-6 with Bath making a lot of the running but Bristol showing their cutting edge.
Cagey Third Quarter Gives Way to Fireworks
There were no scores in the 20 minutes after halftime, only adding to the tension of the occasion. Both sides trade blows with Bath having their fair share of the territory and possession.
The deadlock was broken, however, as Luatua and Morahan broke away off some Bath loose play. The Australian winger was well brought down by Homer in the right corner. However, Bristol recycled well to and built pressure. This resulted in Harry Randall diving over for the Bears third score.
That score proved to be the final act for Rhys Webb. However, as soon as he left the field his replacement Will Chudley went in for a score of his own. He ran a nice line off a Priestland to bring the score back to 19-13 with 15 minutes to play.
Bristol Hold Firm to Win
As the seconds ticked away Bath once again pushed for the score that would put them ahead. Finally gaining some field position with a scrum on the 22 we looked to be headed for a grandstand finish. However, poor execution from substitute Freddie Burns saw Bristol able to clear.
Bath continued to attack well past the 80-minute mark. However, Bristol held firm in defence soaking up the waves of attack. For the first time in recent memory Bristol have won at The Rec in what was a cagey and tense affair.
Sheedy and Leiua Stand Out
Bristol will be praising the influence of fly half Callum Sheedy to produce an assured and classy performance. He was the architect behind Bristol’s second try which was the pick of the afternoon. On top of this, he marshalled his team around the field with poise making it ever more perplexing that one England, Ireland or Wales have yet to come calling.
Alapati Leiua continued his stellar season in the Bristol backline. Providing them go forward in attack and assurance in defence Leiua has taken many plaudits this year and continues to impress as the season rumbles on.
“Main Photo Credits”
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